Most people engage in monophasic sleep, which is characterized by sleeping in one isolated block every 24 hours.
Some people also engage in biphasic sleep in which two different periods of time are utilized for sleep every 24 hours. For these people, nighttime is often the basis for their primary sleep, while brief naps mid-day often serves as their secondary sleep phase.
Another less common way to arrange sleep is called polyphasic sleep, which is characterized by sleeping more than two times per 24-hour period. This has gained notoriety in recent years due to the uberman sleep schedule, which is a particularly extreme way to engage in polyphasic sleep.
What Does Polyphasic Sleep Look Like?
In this article, we will discuss 5 reasons to avoid a polyphasic sleep cycle.
In this blog we are emphasizing how unnatural this kind of sleep cycle is. Most researchers currently believe that 9 hours in one sleep session is best.
You’re Not a Baby
The only members of the human population that naturally engage in polyphasic sleep are babies.
Newborns often sleep up to 18 hours a day in small blocks of 2 to 4 hours. Yet, this style of sleep is soon phased out for a biphasic sleep cycle. This typically occurs after about a year, though it varies depending on the baby.
The reason that babies need this kind of shut eye is because they just entered the world. They’re growing at an exponential pace. Each experience they have is literally mind expanding. Each muscle they use requires maximum recovery. That’s a lot to process, so it makes sense that they get tired so often.
But, if you’re reading this, you’re not a baby.
Our circadian rhythm governs when we are tired and awake, and it has done that for thousands of years. More specifically, melatonin is produced when it is dark, which regulates our sleep cycles. When its light outside, our energy is optimized, and melatonin is suppressed.
Generally, it’s a good rule of thumb to follow the propensities that nature has provided us rather than follow a sleep trend that has only emerged within the last 75 years.
Sleep is Enjoyable and Rejuvenating
Why would you ever want to miss out on sleep? Sleep is a pleasurable process. That’s why you fly to other universes in your dreams. The body is seducing the mind so that proper restoration and cleansing can be performed.
When you split your sleep schedule up into small portions throughout the day, not only do you turn sleep into a pure means, but you actually interfere with your enjoyment of the day. Cherish your sleep and treat it as an end in itself.
Polyphasic Sleep Based on a Myth
One of the most common reasons cited for adopting a polyphasic sleep schedule is that it maximizes the most important phases of sleep, namely REM Sleep and slow wave deep sleep.
Yet, this claim is exaggerated. It is true that when REM sleep and slow wave sleep are disturbed that the body compensates by increasing the amount of time we spend in these states. In addition, after disturbance, the body enters these states more quickly to compensate.
Yet, this does not mean these states are just as effective and restorative as they usually are when preceded by sufficient light sleep. They are still incredibly dense states, but severely compromised.
In addition, sufficient long-term studies have not been performed to actually make any definitive conclusions. The only effects that have been observed have been short term. It is very likely that if REM Sleep and slow wave deep sleep were over emphasized over a long period of time, the body would similarly compensate by requiring more light sleep as well.
It’s important to note that the cycles of sleep that are demarcated by science are illusory and do not really exist except within our concepts.
Ultimately, there is only one sleep cycle, and we apply various stages to it for communication. In this sense, the entire sleep cycle is an interconnected system, and an imbalance in any one part will result in an imbalance in another part. Thus, if only REM sleep and slow wave deep sleep are sought, then a light sleep imbalance will eventually take effect.
This Sleeping Style is Bad for Artistry
Many adherents to the polyphasic sleep cycle claim that it boosts their creativity, though this is a dubious claim.
In particular, a certain kind of creativity might be temporarily boosted, namely physical creativity. This is the kind of creativity that societal heroes like firemen and police officers experience when they spend most of their time awake.
But even that compromise ends up wearing on these brave members, and it certainty does not promote health or longevity long-term.
When it comes to artistry and mental creativity, most studies show that the exact opposite is true, namely that prolonged sleep aids in memory consolidation and learning. Both of these processes are critical for developing ideas and skills as an artist.
Thus, if you have any artistic inclinations, you should stick to your nightly 8-9 hours.
Our Final Thoughts on Polyphasic Sleep
Any perceived benefits of polyphasic sleep are only temporary. Many long-term studies have been done on getting sufficient sleep, and the evidence is clear that any kind of sleep deprivation is damaging and raises your risk of many diseases.
In addition, polyphasic sleep is meant for babies whose circadian rhythms are not yet established. You’re not a baby. So, put on your pajamas, hop under the covers, and sleep in for a change.
Feature image via Science | HowStuffWorks